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WGLT's reporting on the coronavirus pandemic, which began in McLean County in March 2020.

Employees Say Tony Roma's Failed To Deliver Last Paychecks

Tony Roma's in Bloomington.
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Tony Roma's in Bloomington.

Editor's note: Hours after this story was published, former Tony Roma's front-of-house manager Mary Sigler said she was just notified that employees will be getting paid March 30.

Employees at Tony Roma’s restaurant in Bloomington say their bosses stiffed them out of their final paycheck, for hours worked before the business shut down.

Mary Sigler said she was front-of-house manager at Tony Roma’s through March 19, when the restaurant stopped its curbside service and shut down for good. Sigler and her 16-year-old daughter, who is a hostess there, were expecting to get paid Monday. The money never came.

Sigler said she worked around 100 hours over that pay period. She was expecting about $2,000 in her check.

“That’s our bill money. That’s my grocery money,” Sigler told WGLT. “That’s money I needed. I need it for my family like everyone else does right now.”

Sigler provided WGLT with a copy of an email she and other employees received on Monday, with the subject line “Payroll Checks.” It reads in part:

“As you are aware, the State of Illinois closed all food and beverage establishments as of Monday, March 16, 2020. Due to this Tony Roma’s is unable to operate and generate the necessary cashflow to meet our obligations. Unfortunately, we are unable to provide paychecks for our employees at this time. We are exploring all avenues to garner sufficient funds to pay our employees as soon as possible,” the email stated.

Sigler’s staff of around 25 included a lot of young people, she said. Two of the employees—in their teens and 20s—live together and need their paychecks for rent, she said.

For Sigler, 44, of Bloomington, the missing paycheck came on the same day she found out her 5-year-old dog has diabetes. That’s another expense she can’t cover right now.

“I’m just flabbergasted as to how it’s being handled,” Sigler said.

Anyone who is owed lost wages can file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Labor.

“Our Fair Labor Standards division has received wage claim complaints in this matter. It is an open case, so no additional information is available at this time,” said IDOL spokesperson Mike Matulis.

The Bloomington Tony Roma’s franchise, which opened in 2014, is operated by Bloomington Ribs LLC, whose corporate manager is listed as John David McClain from Louisiana. An owner named “David McClain” was quoted in a 2018 post about Tony Roma’s on the Bloomington-Normal Restaurant Scene Facebook page. WGLT requested comment by emailing the sender of Monday’s message to employees. WGLT has not received a reply.

WGLT also contacted Tony Roma’s corporate office. Its response:

“This is a franchise location and during this time the franchisee is working to navigate the unique challenges flowing from this unprecedented time due to the COVID-19 virus. We are thankful for the hard working and dedicated franchisee team members at this location. We are not the appropriate channel to share franchisee employee details.  It should be known we are following the rapidly evolving coronavirus situation and are encouraging our franchisees to follow the mandated regulations applicable to them.”

There were around 9,300 jobs at food and drinking places in McLean County as of 2018, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Their combined annual wages total $157 million.

We’re living in unprecedented times when information changes by the minute. WGLT will continue to be here for you, keeping you up-to-date with the live, local and trusted news you need. Help ensure WGLT can continue with its in-depth and comprehensive COVID-19 coverage as the situation evolves by making a contribution.

Ryan Denham is the digital content director for WGLT.
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